It appears that efforts to reduce inappropriate prescription of antibiotics are starting to have an impact on the doctors who prescribe these medicines. So suggests a newly released report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) showing a 24 percent drop in antibiotic prescriptions to kids 14 and under from 1997-98 to 2007-08.
The report comes just days after an editorial in the journal Nature by Dr. Martin Blaser, chairman of the department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, implored doctors to be more prudent in prescribing antibiotics. Blaser argued that the practice not only increases the likelihood of the emergence of superbugs like deadly MRSA, but it could also kill off the good bacteria in our bodies that protects us from other nastier bugs.
“Antibiotics are miraculous,” Blaser told ABC News. “They’ve changed health and medicine over the last 70 years. But when doctors prescribe antibiotics, it is based on the belief that there are no long-term effects. We’ve seen evidence that suggests antibiotics may permanently change the beneficial bacteria that we’re carrying.”
The average American child will receive 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics by the time he or she is 18 years old, and one-third to one-half of pregnant women will receive them during pregnancy, according to Blaser’s report.
Here are a few tips that consumers can use to keep themselves safe when it comes to antibiotics:
- Skip antibiotics for the flu and the common cold. Antibiotics do not work against all infections. By their very nature, they are effective against only those caused by bacteria. This means that if you are suffering from a viral infection like the common cold or seasonal flu, they will likely do nothing to improve your health.
- Never take antibiotics that have not been prescribed to you by a doctor. Taking these drugs inappropriately may not only bring no benefit but may also increase the chances that harmful bacteria present in your body could develop resistance to the drugs. The more resistant a bacteria is to treatment, the more dangerous it becomes.
- Always finish the entire course of antibiotics you receive. Even if you start to feel better in the middle of the course of treatment, failing to finish every pill could increase the chances of developing bacterial resistance.
- Keep careful track of any adverse reactions you experience when taking antibiotics. Many people experience adverse effects when taking certain antibiotics, whether they’re allergic reactions or something else. It is important to make a note of these reactions so you can inform your doctor and lessen your chances of receiving the same drug again.
<i>ABC News’ Mikaela Conley contributed to this report.</i>